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Jurgen Klopp took transfer gamble after Liverpool heartbreak - then a generation of dreams came true

There's a quote that adorns the Anfield walls, first coined by Jurgen Klopp, that neatly encapsulates everything the iconic venue represents.

The phrase is essentially the reason the ground exists to this day. "This is a place for big football moments," reads the succinct pearl of wisdom from Klopp. And as the manager who became the first in three decades to lead Liverpool to a domestic league title, he knows that more than most. From the very first whistle of 2019/20 campaign, Klopp's team were several cuts above.

Driven by the agony of missing out just a few months earlier, when their 97-point campaign could only win them silver, the Reds hit their stride early on, dismantling newly-promoted Norwich City 4-1 on a warm Friday evening. From there, they didn't look back. Not even once.

PART ONE: 'Like nothing we'd ever heard before' - Inside Jurgen Klopp's early years as Liverpool manager

PART TWO: Jurgen Klopp sent clear message as FSG gave green light for major Liverpool spend

PART THREE:Jurgen Klopp filmed at 5am as Liverpool boss kept promise made at lowest ebb

After a previous term left them without the Holy Grail, it would have been easy to fall away and to let the bitter disappointment of second place lead to a regression.

But after collecting a tally that would have won them the crown in 25 previous Premier League seasons and yet still only ending up as runners up, the major question was just how would this team pick themselves up, dust themselves down and convince themselves that they could overthrow a domestically dominant Manchester City?

For Klopp, it was simple. In fact, he told the ECHO exactly how in trademark style during a chat in his then Melwood office in the season's formative stages. "You only have to look at your passport, as long as you are not dead, you can improve, that is how it is."

For that, the Champions League victory in Madrid must take ample credit for instilling what became an unshakable belief inside the squad. Winning the biggest trophy in club football in the European Cup told that group of players they had the minerals to pull up their boot straps and try again.

Without major surgery in the transfer market, the famed 'mentality monsters' blitzed through the competition, running away with the league to wrap it up with a record seven games left to play. They finished their historic term with 99 points and it was quite the ride that took them there.

It started back in July when the Reds reconvened for pre-season at Melwood. The mood was a relaxed one across the summer months, by all accounts. Winning the European Cup will do that for you.

No major new signings were really needed as Klopp took the decision to keep together the team that had come within a whisker of a Premier League and Champions League double the season previous. Instead, the 2019 European Cup final eased any lingering concerns that this was a squad full of nearly-men.

Lifting the biggest prize in club football in Madrid on June 1 convinced everyone connected to the club that they could be successful and as a result, Klopp's players were emboldened, firmly believing they could topple City this time around.

It would be two-and-a-half months before a single point would be dropped as a rampant Reds ran up a six-point advantage after nine games. With the gap between City and Liverpool proving to be wafer thin just a few months earlier, such an advantage was a healthy one, but they only had aspirations of increasing it as autumn turned to winter.

Victories over Southampton, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Burnley, Sheffield United and Leicester were all totted up as the Reds found a new gear early on.

A 17-game winning run may have been brought to a halt at Old Trafford on October 20, but something was stirring. It would take a further four months before another point was shilled away. And by then, they had already disappeared over the hill, in truth.

Decisive wins over the likes of Manchester City, Everton and Leicester City on Boxing Day were all racked up in the meantime as the gap continued to widen. Each stumble from their title rivals was greeted heartily from the Reds faithful as Pep Guardiola's champions suffered damaging defeats against Norwich and Wolves and a draw with Spurs.

But as Liverpool's lead grew more substantial, a variety of players were keen to stick to the party line after each and every week. Regardless of how impressive the performance or how significant the result, the Liverpool squad, as per their manager's demands, were keeping their feet firmly on the group.

Six points became nine with a 3-1 win over City at Anfield on November 11 before the squad flew out to their respective international camps with a spring in their step. Unable to get a real chance to analyse the result and performance with his team, it wasn't until nearly two weeks later that Klopp and his players met to discuss that huge victory over their title rivals.

Liverpool met up to pick the bones of the game against City, as is customary, and the collective mood was understated. They knew they had taken a giant stride towards their goal, but there was much work still to be done.

Celebrations were minimal as the team gave themselves a quick pat on the back before readying themselves for what was promising to be a make-or-break December. The overriding message remained the same: Nothing was won yet.

Between November 23 and January 5, Liverpool played 14 times that included a trip to Qatar for what was a draining couple of games in a successful Club World Cup campaign. Taking their eye off the ball could easily have resulted in that nine-point advantage dissipating. "Nothing to celebrate yet," Klopp reiterated.

December began with a morale boosting 5-2 shellacking of Everton in the Merseyside derby. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson were all consigned to the bench as Alisson Becker sat it out through suspension and eyebrows were raised when fringe players like Dejan Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi were brought into the fold but a rampant Reds put their visitors to the sword.

Bournemouth away and Watford at home brought up another six points for the Reds before Qatar called. A return to domestic action arrived on Boxing Day with arguably the performance of the season.

Brendan Rodgers's Leicester had to be considered rivals when the two teams kicked off on December 26, but within 90 minutes, those claims were considered laughable as a ruthless Reds left town with a convincing 4-0 triumph. Merry Christmas indeed.

Alexander-Arnold couldn't suppress a laugh as he learned of his 10 in the ECHO's player ratings as Virgil van Dijk urged his team-mates not to let up as the title started to emerge on the horizon. "We have to keep it going," Virgil van Dijk told the ECHO in the bowels of the King Power. The Reds were refusing to deviate from the script. To a man, Liverpool's message was clear and consistent.

After Wolves had once more rattled City the following day, Liverpool's lead stood at a daunting 13 points. To virtually everyone outside the Anfield, the title was decided before the Christmas lights had been turned off.

A first visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in January was a successful one as Roberto Firmino's goal settled it in favour of the away side in London and by then a 16-point advantage had been opened up. Liverpool had set a record for the best-ever start to a season in any of Europe's top-five leagues, but Klopp was still refusing to get carried away.

"When someone gives you a trophy it is done but until then you need to fight," he said. "It is only the start. We need to continue because our contenders are so strong." Adam Lallana added: "We don’t ever want to be complacent. And it’s good to look back and see places you can improve. That’s a good mentality to have."

Eight days later, though, even the Kop started to believe this was their year. As Salah streaked clear of Daniel James to make it 2-0 against Manchester United, the Anfield faithful tried out a new terrace anthem. "And you're gonna believe us...we're gonna win the league!" Salah lost his kit, the Kop lost its mind, Man City lost the league.

Alisson was first to arrive on the scene as a shirtless Salah was smothered by team-mates. Anfield erupted. Game over. Put the red ribbons on the title. It was a symbolic moment of release that saw Liverpool finally self-anoint themselves as the next champions of England long after everyone else had already done so.

The fans had proudly boasted about being top of the table all season, but there was a tangible shift on January 19. Now, they felt, with much conviction, that the Premier League crown would actually be theirs. A special home in the trophy cabinet awaited the first trophy of its kind and the 'champions wall' outside the ground would need a new stencilling added to it.

And yet still, Klopp was unwilling to indulge. For him, that was the job of others. Those who had paid their hard-earned to witness history unfold. "Of course they are allowed to dream and sing whatever they want, and as long as they do their job in the moment we play, all fine," he said. "But we will not be part of that party yet."

Yet.

Sixteen points became 22 but the serenity of the procession was pierced by a sharp defeat at Watford. The 3-0 reverse was jarring and Liverpool's hopes of invincibility fell by the wayside in Hertfordshire.

It was nothing but a minor hiccup, but the ever-increasing threat of the coronavirus continued to course its way across the globe. Less than two weeks later, play would be suspended. A waiting game ensued after a return to winning ways at home to Bournemouth.

Zoom quizzes were organised, haircuts slowly took on drastic changes and the Liverpool squad were forced to wait to see if their efforts would be all be in vain. Eventually, football was given its return date in May. June 21 would see Liverpool travel to Everton for the 236th Merseyside derby, behind closed doors.

The surreal prospect of winning a first league title in 30 years at Goodison Park without a fan in attendance was briefly on the agenda depending on the result of City's visit from Arsenal and by now, even Klopp was willing to let his guard down, openly discussing the prospect of bus parades to mark the moment.

"If this is the 12th or 13th matchday of next season and we want to celebrate it - who is going to stop it?" said the Liverpool boss. "Then we still have the trophy and then we can drive it around town and stand on the bus. If other people then think that we are completely crazy, I honestly don't care."

A bore draw was quickly forgotten about after a relentless chasing of Crystal Palace left the visitors in a daze as Anfield played host to its first match since mid-March. A 4-0 victory would be job done for the Reds. "That was the moment when I thought: ‘Yes, we will be champions,'" Klopp later admitted to the ECHO.

Twenty-four hours later, they had their collective feet up as Chelsea beat City to confirm what we had all known for a long time: In 19/20, Liverpool were the best team in the land. And by quite the distance.

After the in-house party inside the COVID-tested bubble of Formby Hall, the club arranged for the special construction of a podium on the Kop as Klopp, Henderson and the rest of the squad were given their medals by none other than Sir Kenny Dalglish on the night of July 22, 2020, the final home match of the season.

A wild 5-3 victory over Chelsea was the prelude on the night as the main event took place at full time. The Reds were given the silverware they had craved above any other with just 500 of family, friends and media inside the ground.

Henderson had been coy, but when the big moment arrived, the Liverpool captain didn't disappoint. There was no way he ever could. The 'Hendo Shuffle' - a jig that had been perfected over a trophy-laden year - was performed, despite a season-ending knee injury.

A magnificent selection of fireworks colourfully burst into the Merseyside sky and boomed across the city as Henderson clasped that big old piece of silver with Liverpool's name on and lifted it high. And just like that, the wait was over. A generation of dreams had become reality. From doubters to believers to record-breaking, history-making achievers. Liverpool, finally, were champions of England once more.

As Klopp can attest, Anfield is a place for big football moments and that night, despite the empty arena itself, was one of its most famous.

A version of this piece was first published in 2020.

Part five reflects on the seasons of 2020/21 and 2021/22 as the Reds played an entire campaign behind closed doors before almost completing an unprecedented quadruple

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